Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5million club-record return to Chelsea has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, in which no one knows when the next twist is coming.
He appeared set to lead Chelsea’s charge for the Premier League title after arriving from Inter Milan, scoring three goals in as many top-flight games and bullying an Arsenal defence short on confidence.
However, after four goalless Premier League games came an ankle sprain that kept him out of six fixtures across all competitions, before coronavirus struck soon after.
Romelu Lukaku has scored just once in five appearances against ‘Big Six’ sides this season
Thomas Tuchel says Lukaku needs a goal to get fans back on side after bombshell interview
But few could have envisaged him confessing to being unhappy under Thomas Tuchel and flirting with his former club in a bombshell interview in Italy last month.
The Belgium striker, 28, was subsequently dropped for the 2-2 draw against Liverpool amid the fall-out from the interview, before he issued a grovelling apology to the club’s fans earlier this week promising to restore trust.
Not only did his omission against the Reds at the start of the month increase the hype around the incident, but also saw him miss out on the chance to improve on his modest scoring return against the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’.
Another opportunity presents itself this Saturday lunchtime when the Blues travel to Premier League champions Manchester City, with the visitors desperately in need of a win to close the 10-point gap between them and Pep Guardiola’s league leaders.
Thomas Tuchel insists he and the club have moved on from Lukaku’s interview and suggests the Belgian needs to build on his goal against Chesterfield in the FA Cup third round to wins the fans back round again.
So how likely to the statistics suggest that is, and how has he performed against the other top-six sides, including City at Stamford Bridge in September? Sportsmail crunches the numbers…
Lukaku’s performances for Inter Milan in their victorious 2020-21 Serie A campaign gave the impression of a striker who performs when his team need him to most.
The Belgium international scored a goal in both Milan derbies last season, as well as netting against Juventus, Roma and Napoli once in a 24-goal Serie A campaign.
However, his only goal against a so-called ‘Big Six’ side following his return to the Premier League came on his second top-flight debut for the Blues in their 2-0 win at Arsenal.
No doubt his performance at the Emirates Stadium – which saw him net the first of the Blues’ goal in their London derby victory – was that of an imperious centre-forward.
Lukaku marked his return to Chelsea with a goal and dominating display against Arsenal
Lukaku bullied Gunners centre-backs Rob Holding and Pablo Mari and ran them ragged with his movement, with both defenders ending the game with yellow cards to their name.
But there has arguably been little to shout about since in the Premier League, aside from a brace against Aston Villa in the following game. However, there has been even less to get excited about against the other top sides in this country.
He has faced Liverpool at Anfield, Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, Tottenham in north London and Manchester United on home soil since his brilliance at Arsenal, all without netting or providing an assist.
That must be caveated by the fact that there were mitigating circumstances in some of those fixtures.
The Blues had to play the second 45 minutes against Jurgen Klopp’s men with 10 men following Reece James’ dismissal, though some would argue the Belgian looked more threatening after half time and was poor in the first half when his side had 11 players on the pitch.
Romelu Lukaku’s career record against clubs in the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’
Moreover, he only came off the bench for the final eight minutes of his side’s 1-1 draw against former club United in his first Premier League game back since his ankle injury.
However, despite working the channels well, his best chance against Tottenham was easily saved by Hugo Lloris in a game in which his side scored three times, while he was virtually anonymous in their home defeat by City in September.
Regardless of how he has performed in those four games, his goalscoring numbers against the ‘Big Six’ have undoubtedly taken a hit.
He has scored just 17 goals in more than 6,000 minutes in 82 games against those sides for the likes of Chelsea, West Brom, Everton and United.
His best goalscoring record is actually against Liverpool – which would only have added to the frustration of being dropped for that game this month – with five goals in 16 matches against them.
Lukaku’s best goalscoring record comes against Liverpool, with five goals in 15 games
His next best tally is the four in 15 against Saturday’s opponents Man City, while he has managed three a piece against Arsenal and Man United in 16 and 12 games respectively.
His worst record, somewhat surprisingly, comes against Tottenham, against whom he has netted just once in 13 appearances, with a minutes to goal ratio nearly reaching 1,000.
His overall minuter per goal ratio stands at 359 against the top six sides, which may not appear as disastrous given the level of opposition faced and the mitigating circumstances he has faced, particularly this term.
But a comparison against the teams outside of the ‘Big Six’ demonstrates that perhaps he has struggled on the big stage in England.
But in 183 games against clubs outside the ‘Big Six’ Lukaku has scored 101 goals for his clubs
In 183 games against the other 14 sides in the league that season, he has scored 103 goals, handing him a minuter per goal ratio of 136.7. He has managed just six assists against the ‘Big Six’, while that number rises to 29 against the other sides.
No doubt this can never be a 100 per cent fault-proof comparison due to the vast difference in the number of games played against the ‘Big Six’ and the rest of the league, but even doubling the former figures would still leave him well short of the latter.
A game-by-game breakdown of his stats this season do not any more respectability to his record against the best this country has to offer.
Again, few could see it coming when he managed eight shots, created three chances, had 43 touches and 11 inside the Arsenal box on his return to the club.
He was totally anonymous in the reverse fixture against Manchester City in September
But those numbers dropped drastically at Anfield, managing just two shots and three touches inside the box against Liverpool. And after a slight improvement at Spurs, it went further downhill against City.
The Belgian failed to even have a shot as Chelsea were totally dominated for 90 minutes by Pep Guardiola’s champions, and managed only 21 touches, just four of which came inside the box.
Saturday however offers a shot at redemption, not only for his explosive interview in Italy, but to demonstrate that despite all the noise on the outside, he can still deliver at the most crucial moments for the European champions.
Defeat at the Etihad Stadium could see Chelsea totally eliminated from the title race, but Lukaku can begin the journey of setting the record straight against the side he claimed he turned down in 2020.